While being a truck driver is one of the highest-paying jobs that doesn’t require a college degree, living the trucker life doesn’t come without challenges. Considering the long hours, and weeks that truckers often spend away from their families, it’s a career path that might not suit everyone equally.
One of the things that many people don’t consider before getting involved in trucking is the effect it might have on your body— your skin to be specific. Reports have surfaced throughout the years that show how dramatic the impact of sun damage can be on a truck driver’s skin..
It’s likely you’ve seen the image that began circulating a couple years ago that showed a truck driver whose face looked very different on his left side compared to his right. The side that faced his window looked almost 10 years older, with heavy wrinkles that had resulted from years and years of damage from the sun.
If you’re a truck driver, there is a significant chance that you’ll have to manage your sun exposure over the course of your career— but just how big of an impact does this exposure have on your overall health?
A Potentially Deadly Illness
In addition to the superficial drawbacks, the trucker tan can cause serious health issues. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, and it’s easy to get huge doses of UV radiation as a trucker. Research has found skin cancer to be the single most common form of cancer in the United States, with one in five Americans being diagnosed with the condition in their lifetime.
Despite popular belief that the numbers must be higher in southern states, the truth is quite the opposite. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data shows that northern states (like Washington, Oregon, and Vermont) have a higher rate of melanoma diagnosis than southern states on the whole. In fact, Texas is one of the states with the lowest number of skin cancer diagnoses per year.
New England Journal of Medicine’s Trucker Photo
To make a point and hopefully give you the incentive to take proper measures to protect yourself from the UV rays, here is the photo mentioned above. It was taken for a New England Journal of Medicine study on dermatoheliosis (aging that results from UV ray exposure). It shows a 69 years old trucker suffering from unilateral dermatoheliosis, the result of his 28 years spent behind the wheel.
For U.S. Drivers, the Left Side of the Body Is at Risk
UV exposure in the left arm is five times greater than the right for truck drivers. Exposure on the left side of the face is a staggering 20 times greater than the right. This results in wrinkles, sagging, and brown spots on the left side of the face.
Research also suggests that all types of skin cancer are more prevalent on the left side of the body. About 75% of melanomas are diagnosed on the left side, according to skincancer.net.
Hot or Cold Weather Doesn’t Matter
UV skin damage doesn’t progress only on hot summer days. To understand why that is, it’s important to understand how UV rays function.
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. The latter causes the skin to tan, but the former, UVA, has much more penetrating power and is the one that causes premature skin aging.
Windows and cloud cover aren’t effective in blocking out UV rays, and when there’s snow on the ground, the UVA rays are reflected by the snow (something skiers should be very familiar with). The information above indicates that drivers need to take measures to protect themselves from permanent skin damage, premature aging, and in the worst case, cancer.
How Do I Avoid UV Radiation Damage as a Truck Driver?
Sunscreen is the go-to way to prevent sun damage to the skin. Sadly, it’s often underutilized by truckers. It’s strongly advised to put a layer of sunscreen on before every trip, whether it is up North or down South. Even though you may not be seeing any significant damage, you risk premature aging and skin cancer in the long run.
Wear Long Sleeve Shirts, Hat, and Sunglasses
When it comes to sun damage, it is all about layers of protection. Wearing clothing that covers more of your body will naturally provide more layers of protection. A long-sleeved shirt is an obvious choice here, but if you do not stand wearing one during the summer, get a sun-protective sleeve for your driving arm.
The same goes for sunglasses – get ones comfortable to wear while offering protection for your eyes.
Keep the Window Up
Many truckers tend to drive with their windows rolled down because it feels refreshing – but it is more dangerous than you thought. It is even more dangerous if you prefer to drive with the arm on the window ledge, as it will be directly exposed to sunlight.
Avoid Driving in Peak Sunlight Hours
If your route allows for driving outside peak hours, we suggest going for it. Peak hours vary from state to state; however, it has generally been taken to be from 10 a.m. to around 2 p.m.
Get Your Windows Tinted
Some types of window films have been proven to offer the same protection as sunscreen. Additionally, tinted windows will keep the temperature lower inside the cab, reduce the glare effect, and provide some additional privacy during sunny days.
However, a disclaimer is in order here: Tinted windows are illegal in some states, so be sure to check the state’s laws before getting your truck windows done. Untinted UV window shields are an alternative option that can be used everywhere, however.
Get Frequent Check-Ups with a Dermatologist
If you’ve been on the road for some time, it’s likely you’ve been affected by UV rays to some degree. The obvious signs are permanent tan lines on your body, tick patches of skin, rapid face aging, freckles, and appearance of moles. Scheduling frequent check-ups at a dermatologist will give you peace of mind and guidance to protect your health and youth.
Although trucking has its pros and cons, driver health will always be an issue. Plenty of drivers don’t pay attention to their well-being until it is too late, but that doesn’t have to be your fate. Sun damage is only one of the health issues truckers face every day on the road, and it only takes a little extra effort to increase your quality of life on the job.
Guest post written for Mission Financial by Mile D. from TruckerJobUSA.com